Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Letter to the Chairman of the Committee from the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

  In its Report on the Prison Service in Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee recommended inter alia that the duties of Boards of Visitors should no longer include jurisdiction over matters of prison discipline. The Secretary of State accepted the recommendation.

  At the Westminster Hall debate, on 27 January, I indicated to the Committee that we were working towards the removal of such powers.

  I also indicated that removal may take time as it raised important policy issues of balancing the needs of good order and discipline in prisons and protecting staff, alongside systems which guarantee the rights of prisoners. The coming into effect of the Human Rights Act would also be an important consideration.

  I am pleased to report to the Committee that those policy issues have been resolved and we are now in a position to remove the adjudicatory powers delegated to Boards by the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State has, today, laid in the House, the Prison and Young Offenders Centre (Amendment) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2000 which will effect the removal of Boards of Visitors from the adjudication process. The new provisions will come into effect on 2 October concurrently with the Human Rights Act.

  You may wish to advise the Committee of the planned changes.

The Rt Hon Adam Ingram JP MP

Minister of State for Northern Ireland

11 September 2000

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